United Arab Emirates: UAE- Two human rights defenders sentenced under new Cyber Crime Law as delivery of verdict in the case of UAE94 approaches

23.05.13

The crackdown against human rights defenders in the UAE is continuing as two human rights defenders were sentenced under the new Cyber Crime Law.

On 22 May 2013 the Court of Appeal in Abu Dhabi upheld the sentence of Abdullah Al-Hadidi, sentenced to 10 months in prison for tweeting about the case of the UAE94, of which his father, Abdulrahman Al-Hadidi, is one. His tweet expressed concern as to why allegations of torture of the defendants had not been investigated. He was the first person to be sentenced under the new legislation, which severely punishes the right to freedom of expression. (For further information on his case see our previous  appeal dated 11 April 2013: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/378 )

The GCHR has received information that on 18 May Waleed Al-Shehhi, who was originally arrested on 11 May 2013 and brought to an undisclosed location, was transferred to the central jail in Abu Dhabi, Al-Wathba. (See previous appeal issued on 13 May 2013: http://gc4hr.org/news/view/414). It has been confirmed that he has been charged under Article 28 of the new Cyber Crime Law for disrupting public order. This broad legal provision provides for up to fifteen years in prison for using the Internet to post anything with the intent of inciting to actions, or publishing or disseminating any information, news, caricatures or other images liable to endanger security and its higher interests or infringe on the public order. This new offence is considered to be a state security crime and as such is not subject to appeal.

These sentences against the human rights defenders come against the backdrop of the trial of the UAE 94. The verdict is scheduled to be handed down at a court session on 2 July 2013. The 13th hearing of the trial took place on 2 May, at which the presentation of both sides’ arguments were concluded. Prominent human rights lawyer Mohammed Al-Roken, argued strongly against the detention and charges against the defendants. He outlined several grounds as to why their prosecution should fail, including the lack of evidence and distortion of records on which to base the charges. He outlined also the lack of fair procedures followed including the failure to produce arrest warrants or to extend the length of detention in accordance with law, the detention of some of the defendants for a period of time in secret prisons and solitary confinement, the lack of access to lawyers for extended periods of up to eight months, and the use of torture and ill-treatment.

The GCHR expresses concern over the sentencing of Abdullah Al-Hadidi and Waleed Al-Shehhi and fears that this new legislation may be used against other human rights defenders who peacefully and legitimately exercise their right to freedom of expression on line. The GCHR expresses further concern at the on-going detention of the UAE94 and urges the authorities to release them and Abdullah Al-Hadidi and Waleed Al-Shehhi immediately.

The GCHR urges the authorities in UAE to: 

  1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against and release Abdullah Al-Hadidi, Waleed Al-Shehhi and the UAE94 detained as a result of their peaceful and legitimate human rights work;
  2. Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Abdullah Al-Hadidi, Waleed Al-Shehhi and the UAE94 and all others in detention in the UAE;
  3. Carry out an immediate thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and breach of fair trial procedures in the case of the UAE 94;
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in UAE are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment. 

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration."